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Jessamyn Barton
Passionately moderate- A geek, humanist, freethinker and, despite all appearances, an optimist.
Passionately moderate- A geek, humanist, freethinker and, despite all appearances, an optimist.

Jessamyn's posts

Surely I can't be the only one living in a conservative area who avoids going outside after awful events because you/I can't handle the gross attitudes of people, right?

I actually heard someone say to a buddy in earnest that we should put all Muslims (in Canada) in internment camps. It's like a sucker punch to the guts that people that awful can actually exist in real life- it's easier to think they're confined to the internet, I guess. I I just stared at him, couldn't even comprehend someone saying that in line at the grocery store. Was literally and regrettably speechless. Thought I might actually vomit on him for a minute.

What could you possibly say to someone that hateful to make them see others as people? That's not really rhetorical- I feel bad for not having the wits to respond in that situation. I find it easier to react when it's actually protecting other people- tell them to shut the hell up and make sure the other person is allright. But when it's just me and an awful person or two, I have no idea how to handle it. It doesn't help that I tend to associate hateful views with violent people. That was a violent assertion he made in and of itself, in my books.

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I think this is very well put and interesting. About news and social media coverage of important/awful events. I post this not meaning it to be a blanket statement against any posting of things related to Boston, but rather as an interesting way of looking at what may drive the obsessive section of people posting.

This gave me another avenue to think about why certain coverage bothers me- it seems more like reveling in it when, for example, people on my FB in Canada (with only Canucks on their list) spent all week posting pictures of blood and debris, posting pictures of various (though never white) suspects.  And one even got upset that I was online but not sharing their 'detective work', though I hadn't posted anything unrelated to the various awful happenings this week either.

My sympathies, thoughts, and 'good vibes' insofar as they exist go out to all those in Boston, those who know someone involved, and all Muslims.
The Tyranny Of Real Time

We live in a real time world.

Well, we always lived in a real time world. But the scale of that world used to be quite small. Basically just the people in our immediate vicinity. And when we got mass media our world expanded but it wasn't a real time world.

Radio and TV were for the longest time a reactionary media. They told us about things after the fact. Hours rather than days, but still afterwards. Because it was afterwards they were able to supply context and attempt to put all the information into some semblance of order.

Things really changed with the arrival of the 24 hour news networks. They were desperate to fill up air time.  Suddenly we had live on the scene reporting for everything.

And audiences lapped it up. Because instinctively we feel that things that are happening now must be more important than things that were happening 6 hours ago. Even if that frequently isn't true.

In fact very few of the things that are covered by 24 hour news channels are of any actual importance to 95% of the people watching. They are visual gossip, but they don't actually impact our lives. 

Along Comes The Internet

The internet is as real time as 24 hour news, but without even those minimal filters in place. So when it arrived the number of potential news sources ballooned. Suddenly we were free of middlemen coloring our news. Or at least that is how many people see it.

Blogs allowed people to report on the things they thought were important. The iPhone and other cellphones made cameras and video ubiquitous. And social networks made news a non-stop stream.

Drowning In the Stream

The amount of news we are now exposed to is overwhelming. It's impossible to consume it all. Instead we dip in and out of that stream as it is convenient.

When something bad happens like the bombings in Boston, we immerse ourselves trying to soak it all up. Trying to understand it. For most of us who are not in the immediate vicinity doing this, forwarding posts... it makes us feel as though we are doing something.

But as I pointed out earlier, real time news isn't actually good, or useful news. And again the tragic events in Boston illustrated this.

The social media streams were flooded with reports and reposts. But for the first 3 hours there was really no useful news to report beyond the fact that explosions had occurred.

There was, however, a flood of bad news. People speculated as to the culprit (probably incorrectly since we still don't know). Threats were issued. Additional bombs were reported. Incorrect death tolls were reported. A suspect was being questioned (not). There were photos. Oh so many photos. First person accounts. Reaction shots. Endless reportage. Just very few actual facts.

And none of it helped.

Real Time Done Right

Now there were some good uses made of social media. Google's People Finder for example or the spreadsheet of people who would put up others who needed a place to stay. These are excellent uses of the real time internet.

Providing relevant information to people who are in a specific location when they need it is how the real time internet should work. Unfortunately the good stuff. The relevant stuff is often drowned by all the rest.

The Tyranny Of Real Time

We currently live in a world where real time is presented as the be all end all of news. It's not.

Certain information is beneficial to us in real time. It's useful for me to know if there was a car crash on the route I take to and from work.  It's useful to me. I can do something with it.

Pictures of dead and bloody people. That is not beneficial. I can't help these people. I can't do anything except feel bad. It's hard to turn away from that flood of information when something important is happening. But the information isn't helping.

The problem with removing the middleman from news is that filters are actually important. Humans are very bad at being unemotional and analyzing  large quantities of data. We tend to find patterns that don't exist and were' all guilty of confirmation bias.

The delays we used to experience before receiving news allowed facts to be confirmed, information to be reviewed and multiple people to analyse it. That has all been lost.

The real time coverage of the Boston Bombing didn't enhance our understanding at all. If anything it probably had a negative effect by exposing people to horrific images and making them experience horrible events while removing any sense of control from them.

Real time information has a lot of good uses, but news isn't one of them. And we need to move away from the idea that knowing sooner is always better.


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I think this was brilliantly written. I've noticed the arguments that follow this line hard, but I had assumed that they were two prevalent thoughts that tended to occur in the same type of individual, not that one may actually exacerbate or even be the cause of another.

It also explains the baffling phenomenon of anti-equality folk focusing like a laser on 'Marriage is procreative!!' when that statement makes NO sense at face value (as we don't forbid people who are old, sterile, or don't wish for kids to marry).
This is a very interesting article, because it finally answered for me where the deep opposition to same-sex marriage is coming from for many people. Some of it is the simple "gay people are ICKY," but there seems to be a separate thread within it, that's specifically opposed to marriage. And this article talks about why, and where the notion that it might threaten "traditional" marriage can come from: because it normalizes the idea that traditional gender roles aren't automatically a part of marriage.

h/t +F.S.J. Ledgister for the link.

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Eugh that's terrible (the experience- not the article) . 'We'll come back for your rights! Just don't actually stand by us or anything, we don't really want to be seen together.'
How on earth could someone even think that gay marriage doesn't effect trans people?
Given their history of non-inclusiveness when  it comes to the trans community though, I'm seriously not holding my breath on them even considering implementing the pro-trans suggestions in the op-ed. Very sad.

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Needs better hobbies.

Anger, sarcasm, aggressiveness, and a pst/warning about changing posts

So I'm going to be trying out a bit of a different tone for some of my stuff, which I guess is a bit of a warning? I've been going more and more clinical with my writing in an attempt to make it perfectly clear-cut and as proof against misinterpretation of my meaning. But for many reasons I am going to experiment with injecting more humour and anger into it (though less than the comics, for those familiar with them).

In part, writing so sterilized actually takes some meaning away rather than unambiguously clarifying it, as knowing your tone can aid in interpretation and also can inspire more organic understanding (ie it's less confusing for some people).

There are some more important personal reasons as well. For one thing, writing like that is a drag. Not that wild-tilting drunken rants are my goal by any means, but completely depersonalizing the writing takes much time and effort away from the actual message, and usually weakens it besides. It makes something I do obsessively into something I actively avoid.

The last but by no means least of the reasons is that aggression makes me very deeply uncomfortable in most any situation. It's a byproduct of past abusive experiences that can be and has been a major limiting factor in my participation in discussions offline and on. Which is why I ban aggressive trolls and have (sparingly) in the past asked people I've talked with to please dial back their anger/aggressiveness a touch in responses to my own posts on things. I categorically do not believe in the value of making tone arguments, but regardless of what side of an issue someone's on, it severely limits my participation when seeing someone being pretty aggressive gives me flashbacks or a panic attack. Yes, even virtually. Actually, it happens more often online, as people tend to not get screamingly angry in person (I am severely lucky that I'm a member of privileged groups that people are more hesitant to yell at specifically, white as hell and middle-class). I do work on this, because it does no one good to be unable to move when something loud happens.

So part of the idea here is to get used to the idea that anger doesn't have to be destructive. Doesn't have to mean 'out of control'. Playing with the idea that it might be something that could actually be constructive.

At any rate, I hope that I can get comfortable with using this device in this setting, so that I might soon find an amount of anger, snark, or sarcasm that successfully enhances the understanding of my own writing rather than detracting from it. That means I will most assuredly mess up sometime, and will have to keep an open mind when it comes to critical feedback, and the balance of getting the right feeling message across and just what it is which readers are picking up on.  Thanks for understanding that this is a learning process (both in understanding I will mess up, and that I must keep an open mind with and need constructive criticism).

So I haven't been on G+ much lately- my scanner broke, so I haven't been using my good comp. But next month I should be getting a new tablet so the good computer will be unearthed and Googling shall resume, yay!

But that brings me to a question. I would be very grateful for some opinions from sensitive people on inappropriate jokes- especially from the kind of people who are generally against rape jokes. I'm working on some cartoons that try to communicate social justice issues better- Tumblr seems to show people like the idea of social justice cartoons, at the very least. In particular, my question is about how to be respectful as well as effective.

I am trying this out based on the theory that you can joke about awful things, but you need to be very mindful about who is the butt of the joke. IE, a rape joke could be OK if you are laughing at how absurd rape culture is, not at the fact that there is rape, not at who you think doesn't get raped, and certainly not at victims themselves.

The main problem I have now, looking at the lineart and preliminary dialogue, is that using a metaphor seems to be a good way to overcome the initial shut-down peoples brains do when talking about difficult stuff, but drawing comparisons to rape is a risky prospect as nothing is really comparable to rape. One of the series so far is variations on people reacting to the victim of other crimes as ridiculously awful as they react to rape victims, shown without context until the last panel, just flowery text 'If we treated all victims like we treat victims of rape' (wording in progress =p ).  The intent is to shock the reader with the implied exaggeration- you wouldn't harass the victim of this (lesser) crime, so why is it OK when it's rape? BUT by drawing the comparison to other, arguably lesser crimes, I imagine it could possibly be seen as minimizing a traumatic experience.

There are also a couple 'safer' ones, comparing it to a shark attack for example, but my worry is that cliches are limited in scope and number. Obvious connections like that won't have the full impact, as it's not as much of a surprise (people won't be as open to a challenging idea, and it isn't as funny). But I want to prioritize not minimizing something awful over making something potentially funny, so any opinions on whether you see that as a valid or worthwhile comparison, or if it falls flat, would be greatly appreciated.
#rapejokes #socialjustice #victimblaming #feministcartoons

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And some random mohawk pics, because mohawk.
JPG graveyard (6 photos)
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Time for a mini public service announcement. Do spectacularly stupid people ever get you down on FB? For a true example, people non-ironically believing sugar (or an herb, for that matter) literally cures all diseases, including freaking mortality? Or, another true story, trying to imagine how you could possibly prove to someone that the Twix 'Ideologies' commercial is clearly a joke? I have good news. Googling 'How to explain obvious things to idiots' can be surprisingly cathartic.

It's no help at all in understanding why people WANT to believe, but it's funny nonetheless. (For the first three we get an awesome Basic Instructions cartoon, Dilbert and "Six Foot Of Ginger Idiot", a Harry Potter fanfic. Later there's an piece about how to explain Higgs Boson to a layman, or idiot)

Is it so hard to get that when something claims to cure EVERYTHING and/or DEATH in general, it is bunk? We would know if there was a cure for death. Seriously. Especially when it's SUGAR. Truly thinking sugar can work boggles my mind, for if placebos or synonyms for placebos (sugar... pills) worked against cancer or death, there would be no cancer or death.

Also any post at all, regardless of content, that starts with '*THEY* won't want this getting out!' was written by a sensationalist idiot. Perhaps non-idiotic posts with this thesis do exist, like a prisoner writing about their escape, someone letting loose an alligator in a swimming pool, or a politician coming out as an alien in a skin suit. But I certainly haven't seen any yet, and I read waaaaay too many op eds in newspapers and posts online. Nnngh.

Hopefully this came out pared down enough, I have trouble editing when I've pulled an all-nighter like I did tonight because our terrible neighbors cat is in heat. Next week: Why women undermine themselves by preemptively apologizing for their work?? The week after that: Do cat 'adult toys' exist, and can you slide one under your neighbors door

Add holidays, in-laws, atheism, Christianity, stir in some Jewish cultural appropriation

This is part story, part question.

 My husband is pagan and I am a secular humanist, but we put up a tree and celebrate with gifts and feast. I grew up in a Roman Catholic family and always loved the community aspects of Christmas, and he grew up in a strict Church of God household that didn't celebrate any holidays or birthdays, but was curious. I didn't realize until last year, in our relationships fourth year, that he had never put up a tree or celebrated in any other way than gift-giving, and we had a discussion about whether or not to celebrate and decorate in our own house rather than just with our families.

It didn't take much deliberation to decide that we didn't feel it was appropriation to celebrate in our own way. Pagans had the date and tree first, after all (keep the pagan tree spirits in Christmas trees!) and I have fond memories of the secular side of the celebrations. So we got a tree and over the past two years we've collected a nice little selection of secular ornaments- I always preferred stars over angels anyways, even before I identified as a non-believer.

Last night his family came over for a birthday celebration. They celebrate those now, as well as  having small Christmas celebrations and trees after converting to Lutheranism awhile back. I'm not sure how long ago- for as long as I've known them, though they started some time after the kids were grown.

In addition to the birthday boys gift, his parents brought a gift for us and her other atheist daughter. I didn't see them give anything else to the other two siblings. "It's a Christmas light to go in your window." My mother in law explained, as I confusedly opened the box. "Um," I wasn't sure what to say other than, "It's a menorah?" "Yes, we know," cheerfully agreed his father. She confusingly added, "You're definitely supposed to put it up Christmas, and during." Simultaneously my atheist sister in law opened an identical electric menorah (what a sweet band name!). Her wife squinted and politely noted, "It's very pretty."

It really is quite pretty. I've always thought menorahs are quite pretty. But I've never had one, as it seems rather appropriatory (appropriationish?) to take a meaningful religious symbol from a group of people who have spent most of history having to hide their religion due to being horribly discriminated against and display it... 'because it's pretty'.

I don't know what was meant by giving this gift. I can't even hazard a guess as to whether the intent was charitable or not.

Looking at the less-charitable options first, were they trying to make a statement? The two siblings who don't go to Midnight Mass got menorahs. The two siblings who do, seemingly didn't. It is possible, though unlikely, that they gave them some at another time.

What kind of statement would be made by giving atheists/ pagans a religious symbol that neither they nor you are in any way associated with? That you should try some religion during the holidays? Or some sort of passive-aggressive symbol of 'while you're decorating religious symbols you don't believe in'? The latter seems a bit cartoonish to be a real option. I do wonder though, in no small part because his father was an English teacher and what English teacher have you ever known that hasn't unnaturally loved obvious symbolism? (Mostly joking)

Is the thought that displaying symbols of multiple cultures in the home gives the message of tolerance? I like the idea of embracing all religions, and would definitely agree that having multi-faith symbols in public would be a lovely way to make people feel welcomed. But does that same idea really work in an individuals house? In this case, to me, it seems similar to the wearing feathers 'to honour' Native Americans or appropriating other countries religious wedding ceremonies just because it's 'like, deep, man'.

There's a lot of debate over whether those things are OK or if they really are appropriation. I literally cut out enough about that debate out of this piece to make another post. But the main gist is that I have heard people who have less social privilege than I do tell me that those things hurt them. And you know what? That's enough reason for me not to do it. No, really, I don't see how wearing a 'pretty' feather is worth rubbing it in to every Native American I see that we took over their land, slaughtered them, tried to exterminate their way of life, and now see them as so mythical and/or extinct that it's totally cool to take a deeply revered symbol of honor and respect that had to be earned and wear it... Because it's pretty. It would be like wearing a fake Purple Heart of Order of Canada, and I wouldn't wear one for the same reasons I don't wear feathers.

The reason I bring this unpopular idea up is because people complain a lot about 'the ridiculous PC police' who stop them from doing all the fun things in life... And will complain about even thinking about the appropriateness of using a menorah... But exceedingly few people are saying people actually CAN'T use various hurtful words, feathers in hair, pope hats, etc. Very few people that point that stuff out as not okay think that those things should land you in jail. Rather the idea is that we SHOULDN'T. As in, because it is a jerk move to do so, because it hurts people. And hurting people that are oppressed and already going through a hard time reinforces all the terrible things they're going through, and as such is a different and far more harmful thing than generally being mean to someone otherwise privileged.

Of course in this specific case, there is a possibility that cultural appropriation wasn't part of the original thought there. Perhaps, being somewhat new to the whole Christmas thing, they had/have no idea what a menorah is. It doesn't say anywhere on the package what it is.

I am rapidly getting to the point in my life where it seems like a pointless waste of energy to pussyfoot around issues. Not to be confused with not having the energy to have empathy and tact, however. So I think that I shall have to ask what the thought and meaning behind it is. I suspect if there was any kind of uncomfortable (for them) discussion on any topic that I or we would possibly not be invited back, so we'll carefully find out what their thoughts were on it and then play it by ear, like most of life.

So, internet, is this a thing now, hipster menorahs? Are we moving towards Jon Stewarts vision of an alternate reality where Christians are jealous of how cool Hanukkah is (and there's been 3 Jewish presidents!)? And if anyone Jewish reads this, I would appreciate your views and feeling on this. I have searched for blogs and such, but googling various combinations of menorah and appropriation brings up historical appropriations, and the cultural appropriation blogs I follow mostly deal with Native American and African American cultures.

**(This may seem defensive, but I have been criticized on saying this type of thing before, mostly by white male skeptics/anti-theists, who say things like 'Oh, can't think for yourself, need [whatever minority] to make up your mind?' To those people: Yeah, if I want to learn another persons views on something, I will actually go and do my best to get their views from their mouths, not learning it from 'common knowledge' prejudice. And that double goes for people that may be hurt by my specific actions)
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